Defamation law balances two conflicting values: protection of reputation and freedom of expression. The LCO report considers how to adapt defamation law to the internet, including social media, online personal attacks, false online reviews, "new media" organizations and internet platforms.
The LCO report makes 39 recommendations addressing Ontario'sLibel and Slander Act, the substantive law of defamation, publication, notice, limitation periods, injunctions, jurisdiction, takedowns, internet intermediaries and related issues. The report builds on successful reforms to date, such as Ontario's anti-SLAPP legislation. The report is based on the most extensive research and comprehensive consultations of defamation law undertaken in Canada.
The report's major themes/recommendations include:
At present, there is no practical legal remedy for Ontarians victimized by online defamation.
Ontario should introduce a new Defamation Act to promote access to justice and adapt defamation law to the realities of the internet. The new Act should include provisions:
Encouraging alternative dispute resolution of online, personal defamation disputes.
Establishing a new notice regime for defamation complaints;
Establishing a "single publication rule";
Establishing a two-year limitation period for defamation actions; and,
Expanding courts' authority to order interlocutory injunctions to takedown online content in limited, prescribed circumstances.
The new Defamation Act should also establish new legal responsibilities for internet platforms that host third party content accessible to Ontarians. These duties should include an obligation to
Pass on notice of defamation complaints to online publishers; and,
Take down content if the publisher of the content does not respond to notice.
Internet platforms that do not fulfil these duties should be liable for court fines. In order to protect free expression, intermediary platforms should not be considered publishers where they passively host third party content.
Nye Thomas, Executive Director of the Law Commission of Ontario, states: "Defamation law has to adapt to the realities of social media and the internet. Right now, there is no practical legal remedy for many Ontarians victimized by online personal attacks. The law must be changed to help Ontarians better protect their reputations in an online world. This includes giving internet platforms new responsibilities to take down allegedly defamatory third party content in appropriate circumstances."
About the Law Commission of Ontario
The LCO is Ontario's leading law reform agency. The LCO provides independent, balanced and authoritative advice on some of Ontario's most complex and far-reaching legal policy issues. The LCO's most recent report, Class Actions: Objectives, Experiences and Reforms, was released in July 2019. The LCO is funded by the Law Foundation of Ontario, Osgoode Hall Law School, the Law Society of Ontario and York University. The LCO is also supported by Ontario's law schools. The LCO is located at Osgoode Hall Law School, York University.
More information about the project and the LCO is available on the LCO's website at www.lco-cdo.org.
SOURCE Law Commission of Ontario - LCO
For further information: Media Contact: Nye Thomas, Executive Director, Law Commission of Ontario, [email protected], 416-402-7267